Swiss Model for Health Care Thrives Without Public Option
By Nelson D. Schwartz
Thursday, October 1, 2009
ZURICH – Like every other country in Europe, Switzerland guarantees health care for all its citizens. But the system here does not remotely resemble the model of bureaucratic, socialized medicine often cited by opponents of universal coverage in the United States.
Swiss private insurers are required to offer coverage to all citizens, regardless of age or medical history. And those people, in turn, are obligated to buy health insurance.
That is why many academics who have studied the Swiss health care system have pointed to this Alpine nation of about 7.5 million as a model that delivers much of what Washington is aiming to accomplish – without the contentious option of a government-run health insurance plan.
In Congress, the Senate Finance Committee is dealing with legislation proposed by its chairman, Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, which would require nearly all Americans to buy health insurance, but stops short of the government-run insurance option that is still strongly supported by the liberal Democrats.
Two amendments that would have added a public option to the Baucus bill were voted down on Tuesday. But another Senate bill, like the House versions, calls for a public insurance option.
By many measures, the Swiss are healthier than Americans, and surveys indicate that Swiss people are generally happy with their system. Switzerland, moreover, provides high-quality care at costs well below what the United States spends per person.
And yet, as a potential model for the United States, the Swiss health care system involves some important trade-offs that American consumers, insurers and health care providers might find hard to swallow.
The Swiss government does not “ration care” – that populist bogeyman in the American debate – but it does keep sown overall spending by regulating drug prices and fees for lab tests and medical devices.
  As someone who has spent a reasonable amount of time in Switzerland, I would like to point out that the Swiss system of democracy, public transport, ski lifts, social structure, immigration, citizenship and army are other things for us to be jealous of.
  ‘By many measures, the Swiss are healthier than Americans’? You don’t say? I would guess that their ability to walk anywhere is something that alleviates this….
  You don’t want to start me on a lot of Western countries reliance on drug prescriptions….
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